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Archive for January, 2013

Today I took my middle son, Anthony, to his first Solo and Ensemble Festival. For those of you who were not band geeks in middle and high school, Solo and Ensemble, often pronounced by band geeks as “Soloemsemble”, is the yearly festival where musicians are judged on their playing. They can enter as either a solo or with an ensemble of 2-4 players. They play their piece for the judge, who then gives them a score, a “1” being the best and all the way down to a “4”, which is not good. Medals go to those who receive a “1” or a “2”. Medals are then put onto high school varsity jackets and end up being stored in cedar chests along with other memorobilia from the past. My poor medals are stashed in such a place, only coming out during nostalgic times.

Anyhoo, Anthony went for his first time today as an 8th grader, something new because we only went in high school. I had taken Zachary a few years ago and was pleased to find out that it is still held at Livonia Franklin High School where I went for Soloensemble. (I’m using the band geek version from here on out.) The school is still freakishly enormous and other than fashions changing somewhat, it was like stepping back through a time warp to 1990. There were still the same shrieky girls running around with medals, woodwinds, and sheet music, still the same surly-looking teenage boys, who were most likely soloists, since they weren’t talking to anyone else, and the same flower-bearing parents with freshly-purchased carnations from the kiosk in the hallway. I never quite understood the flower thing. This wasn’t a grand performance in front of a huge audience. Heck, my mother never even came to Soloensemble to watch me play, much less bought me a flower for getting a medal, but there they are, all the same.

Anthony was nervous, and understandably so. While he’s a good player, his practice regimine leaves much to be desired and I think that was starting to hit him as he saw the hundreds of kids inside, even more so when we walked into the warm-up room and he heard all of the other trumper players. His two other trio members arrived shortly after we did, as did their band teacher, a wonderful, old-school band teacher like I used to have, the kind who will scream holy heck at you and crack the baton on the music stand, but will then congratulate you like there’s no tomorrow when you do well.

Their teacher led them through some warm-ups and then left to go and attend to running things. The boys practiced while we parents made small talk and waited for our turn. We walked into the performance room and it all came flooding back: the tension, the butterflies in my stomach, the nervousness, and I wasn’t even going to play! The judge was wonderfully nice to the boys and gave them some sound advice, “We have a special on air today: it’s free! Fill up those lungs and don’t be afraid!” When they had finished, she actually picked up her own trumpet and played through the piece with them once to show them how they could improve it. I wish I’d had judges like her when I went through Soloensemble!

When it was over, we packed up the trumpets and waited for the rating. A “2”! Very good for first timers. They were happy and proud as they got their medals and the other boys pinned them onto their jackets. Anthony kept his in its little envelope (those haven’t changed in 20 years either!) and showed it to his dad when we got home. He was a bit worn out from the nerves, but pleased with himself.

While he doesn’t know how far he’s going to go with band, I’m really glad that he had that experience and I was happy to share it with him. It brought back of lot of happy memories. My band years were some of the happiest of my life. Music gave me an outlet from my disfunctional home life; it gave me discipline and a feeling of accomplishment when I nailed a difficult piece or succeeded in securing first chair, drum major, or a spot in the All-State band. It’s something that I still carry with me to this day and I hope my boys will find that same joy in their band years.

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So, we have a mouse again. Or, rather, mice. Unlike as described in my earlier post this year, I haven’t had to club anything to death because the trap hasn’t done its job. At least not yet.

The trouble started last Sunday when I went to get a new bag of flour to refill the cannister and found that it had been violated by a set of tiny teeth and claws. The flour, of course, had to go. Who knows how far the critter(s) burrowed inside? There may have been small naked mouse babies in there, in addition to whatever excrement was spread about.

That being said, I really hate having to dispose of, er, kill, the mice. I actually feel very sorry for them. I mean, really, all they want is a warm place to raise a family and get a bite to eat. It doesn’t sound so bad, right? The American Dream, for crying out loud. If they asked for food politely, didn’t destroy everything, have billions of babies, and poo everywhere I would be more than happy to help them out, but they insist on fornicating constantly, having the aforesaid billions of babies, and destroying food/property. Since they won’t behave properly and won’t leave when they’re asked, they must be lured to a peanut butter laden trap where they will painlessly (please, God, let it be painless) meet their Maker and go to Mouse Heaven where they can poo to their heart’s content, which is pretty much what they did on Earth as it was.

Our neighborhood cat, Charlie, used to keep us free of mice. For years, he hunted them (and chipmunks) fearlessly and would occasionally deposit them on our porch as a gift. But, like all good mousers, Charlie has advanced to his golden years and would now rather spend the winter indoors near the heating vent rather than outdoors keeping mice out of the Browns’ house. Go figure. If we get one more mouse, however, I’m sorely tempted to go to Charlie’s family, our good friends, and offer to buy them another outdoor cat that will mouse for us. It just feels so much better to know that we’d be helping the food chain along rather than just tossing it into a plastic Kroger bag.

During the warm weekend coming up, I plan on going around the outside of the house to find any cracks or crevices that they’re coming in through and sealing them up. I have a pretty good idea of the spot, so hopefully that will put an end to our problem. In the meantime, the cupboard food is on a card table in the living room, again, and the traps are being set nightly, except for tonight, because we ran out.

 

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The Writing Process

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted anything. I’ve found out that I’m a terrrible blogger, especially when life gets in the way. I don’t know if anything would be different if I didn’t have to physically go to a job every day. I don’t mean not working; I would go stir crazy and feel like a drain on society without some sort of job to do, but I would absolutely love a job where I could work part of the time at home and sometimes go into the job, wherever that may be, preferably in a museum environment, but that’s a story for another time. The point is, blogging while teaching and running a household (and acting in a play) is darn near impossible, for me, anyway.

The reason that I’m posting now is because I’m on Christmas Break, not Winter Break as it has been known at previous schools, but an honest-to-goodness Christmas Break. Now that the fanfare has subsided and I have a few days of peace before returning to the craziness, I can sit down and actually get some writing done, something that has been nagging at me for the past three months.

For those that don’t know me well, I became a published author for the first time in May of 2011 with a little book entitled, Put Up Your Hair: A Practical Manual to Nineteenth-Century Hairstyles. While it is through a small publishing house, Heritage Books, I was nevertheless overjoyed and very honored. Friends and family have been wonderful about it and the fact that I had been actually published by a REAL PUBLISHER gave me the confidence to continue working on some fiction projects. The efforts there have not been quite as satisfactory.

My novle, marketed to middle school-age children, is a fantasy, wherein the main character, trying to find his missing father, discovers that his father was actually a time traveler from the past. He and his best friend find a way to journey back to Tudor England in search of him and the story encompasses the challenges they face, including getting used to sixteenth-century hygenic practices. It’s a fine little story and while it isn’t perfect, it’s been gone over and edited time and again to where everything makes sense and fits where it should. The language is current and I’ve tried it out on a few “victims” who have actually enjoyed it, which, again, boosts one’s confidence. The problem comes in finding an agent. While not essential to fiction writing, an agent is vastly more knowledgable about the publishing process than little old me, but they’re so darn elusive! This is definitely an exercise in patience and humility, something that is needed but absolutely sucks to learn.

While being too busy to blog, I’ve also been too busy to keep plugging away at polishing my query letter, polishing the novel, and actually querying agents. Forcing myself to sit down and make time for it again as opposed to, oh, running the vaccuum cleaner or doing the dishes is tough for me, but it will be done. Blogging this post was a way for me to sit down and begin the process of writing again. Perhaps this time, I’ll get more than a nibble and if anyone knows of a good agent looking for a new client, send them my way!

Until next time (perhaps Easter?), I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

 

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